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Today's CFO is increasingly required to partner with the CEO to drive business transformation. Shalini Grover, CFO at Boeing India, is a catalyst for change and a key strategist for her organisation. Her mandate is to drive Finance transformation and advance a culture of simplification and continuous improvement to create a future-ready organisation that helps drive business performance. Aside from the CEO, claims Shalini, only the CFO possesses a ‘comprehensive’ understanding of the business. As a result, after years of back-office-driven performance focus, Finance heads are now well-positioned to be key value identifiers, process integrators, corporate ambassadors and digital evangelists. Today, it is really up to the CFO to look beyond his or her traditional financial controllership, business partnering and strategic partner duties, take advantage of new opportunities and play a vastly expanded and strengthened role.



IMA’s Q3FY23 (Oct-Dec) quarterly Business Confidence and Performance Index (BCPI) survey reveals a continued fall in business optimism. At 57, the headline index dropped by 4 points from Q2. (On each parameter, numbers above 50 indicate net optimism while those below 50 suggest net pessimism.) Out of the three broad factors driving the index, companies are most bothered about the macroeconomic outlook. In comparison, business performance has edged down mildly while Capex intent, though lower than three months ago, remains robust. At a recent joint online session of IMA India’s Forums, we presented the headline results from the latest edition of the BCPI. This set the context for an open-house discussion among our members about their respective organisations and sectors.

Welcome to India

The journey from Bombay’s Santacruz airport to its southern tip at Nariman Point is along construction barricades, the site of a coastal road that promises to reduce the travel time to 30 minutes. These cordons are painted with G20 logos, an indication that India’s business capital will host a few sessions, possibly those for working groups carved out by the G20 organisation. New Delhi will be the proud host for the leadership summit, later this year.

What it takes to be a good leader

Nothing could be more important to a company’s long-term health than its ability to nurture future leaders. Sadly, a large number of newly minted leaders fail to live up to expectations and so the trauma of head-hunting outside talent begins. Research suggests that middle managers that are groomed for senior positions and are accomplished in their supposed areas of expertise, still fail spectacularly when pushed towards higher responsibility. Perhaps they are victims of the ‘Peter Principle’, a hypothesis first mooted by Tom Peters, a leading management thinker of the 1980s. Mr Peters had then argued that ‘managers rise to their levels of incompetence’. The question that arises is whether leadership aspirants can be trained into acquiring skill sets that place them on a stronger wicket.

Think Tank


Neuromarketing – which uses neuro- and cognitive science to identify customer needs, desires and preferences – is grabbing the attention of industry. Compared to traditional marketing, which uses surveys to tap the conscious mind, neuromarketing tries to enter the subconscious. How does it work? Which tools and techniques are required to successfully implement it and, crucially, how can its principles be applied in brand strategy? At a recent joint session of the India CEO and CMO Forums in Delhi, Professor Arvind Sahay, who teaches neuroscience, consumer behaviour, brand management and high-tech marketing, among other subjects, at IIM Ahmedabad, decoded these questions.


With countries turning protectionist, the focus of trade negotiations has shifted from multi-lateral to regional and bilateral deals. On its part, India seeks to become more assertive on issues of importance to it: more liberal visa regimes, easier IP norms, financial support for multi-lateral goals like climate change, etc. Nations are also linking economic and geopolitical considerations in ways they never did before. Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, a former diplomat and currently the Dean of the Kautilya School of Public Policy, provided a considered perspective on the subject at a recent joint session of the India CEO, CFO and CHRO Forums in Hyderabad.


Over the last few months, surging inflation, supply-side issues and rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve have buffeted currency and financial markets globally. Despite these headwinds, the Indian markets have lately seen some renewed energy. This feeds into the ‘wealth effect’, which has a direct bearing on spending, investment and the broader economy. At a recent India CEO Forum session in Mumbai, Neelkanth Mishra, Managing Director and Co-head of Asia Pacific Strategy and India Strategist for Credit Suisse, provided a perspective on current market conditions and their relationship with the broader economy.


With Finance playing an increasingly crucial role in corporate strategy and many CFOs serving as the right-hand to their CEOs, Finance Heads are often the most eligible contenders for the ‘pole position’. Yet, this does not always happen – for various reasons. At a recent India CFO Forum session in Mumbai, we hosted Sanjay Jain, Group CEO of PDS Multinational Fashions, one of the world’s largest design-driven sourcing, manufacturing and supply-chain platforms. Mr Jain has three decades of experience leading transformation across several companies, including as the former CEO of Future Retail and, before that, Group CFO of Future Group. He reflected on his journey across Finance roles leading ultimately to his taking on the ‘top job’. In the process, he offered lessons and highlighted some likely pitfalls that Finance leaders may encounter as they transition towards higher leadership roles.


We live in a world where there always seems to be a new crisis around the corner, whether of a medical, geopolitical or economic nature. Succeeding in this environment demands a very different kind of leadership style – one that moves away from command-and-control to authenticity, from self-interest to being focused on purpose, making a difference and having an impact. What are the prerogatives of becoming an authentic leader? How do you lead with a sense of purpose? To get a deeper understanding on leadership styles, we invited Bill George, a Harvard Business School Professor, and previously the Chairman and CEO of Medtronic, to address a recent session of the India CEO Forum in Delhi. Mr George shared invaluable insights, built on his many years of research on how to identify and imbibe effective leadership in a complex and fast-changing world.